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Memphis city council member starts talk of Memphis secession

Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) has sparked a conversation after calling on the City of Memphis to secede from the State of Tennessee.

Parkinson’s remarks were made on WREG’s “Live at 9” show Monday in response to state lawmakers cutting $250,000 from the city’s budget after the removal of the statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis on Dec. 20.

“Originally it was a thought put out there, thinking out loud, to get the conversation started,” Parkinson said. “That’s all I wanted them to do is to talk about it.”

In addition to Memphis, Parkinson said Nashville’s Davidson County and “everything in between, all the way to the Mississippi River,” or about half the state, should secede from Tennessee.

“I wanted people to talk about it because I think it’s important for those in the Tennessee legislature to understand the value that Memphis and Davidson County bring to the state of Tennessee,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson said the reason Memphis and Davidson County should secede is based on treatment from the Tennessee State legislature.

“The most glaring example of treatment is when they set out to punish Memphis for removing those Confederate statues legally,” Parkinson said. “Also, when you look at most of the policies that are harmful in nature or have a negative impact in nature, they are directed at Memphis and Nashville. An example would be when both the city of Memphis and Nashville moved to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, the state legislature overrode that and made it so they couldn’t.”

Parkinson also said when Memphis and Davidson County chose to deny a charter school application, state legislators created the state authorizer, allowing them to go over the head of locally elected school boards and say “yes” when the school board say “no.”

 “When you couple all of that, I said, ‘Wow, we are in a dysfunctional, if not abusive, relationship with the State of Tennessee,’” Parkinson said. “So I said, ‘Maybe, just maybe, there needs to be a conversation about secession.’”

Parkinson said if a secession were to occur, the original State of Tennessee would “probably” be one of the poorest states in the entire country.

Michael Sances, assistant political science professor at the University of Memphis, said Memphis’ secession from Tennessee would be an “incredible event” but is incredibly unlikely.

“The talk of secession is merely the latest sign of long-standing tensions between Memphis and Nashville,” Sances said. “We see these types of battles in many states between the state capital and outlying areas. In Tennessee, it is particularly bad.”

Sances said if the secession were to happen, there would be “drawbacks.”

“One drawback to the city would be the loss of state revenue and the loss of a state legal system,” Sances said. “One immediate drawback to the state would be the loss of population and tax revenue.”

Sances said even though the battle between the state capital and outlying areas is bad, those who proposed secession know it is just symbolic and a way to express their discontent with the state legislature.

“I would bet most Memphians would prefer to stay in Tennessee, if it even was an option,” Sances said.

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